Among the smaller compends Schwegler’s (1848; recent editions revised and supplemented by R. Koeber) remains still the least bad [English translations by Seelye and Smith, revised edition with additions, New York, 1880; and J.H. Stirling, with annotations, 7th ed., 1879.—TR.]. The meager sketches by Deter, Koeber, Kirchner, Kuhn, Rabus, Vogel, and others are useful for review at least. Fritz Schultze’s Stammbaum der Philosophie, 1890, gives skillfully constructed tabular outlines, but, unfortunately, in a badly chosen form.
THE PERIOD OF TRANSITION: FROM NICOLAS OF CUSA TO DESCARTES.
The essays at philosophy which made their appearance between the middle of the fifteenth century and the middle of the seventeenth, exhibit mediaeval and modern characteristics in such remarkable intermixture that they can be assigned exclusively to neither of these two periods. There are eager longings, lofty demands, magnificent plans, and promising outlooks in abundance, but a lack of power to endure, a lack of calmness and maturity; while the shackles against which the leading minds revolt still bind too firmly both the leaders and those to whom they speak. Only here and there are the fetters loosened and thrown off; if the hands are successfully freed, the clanking chains still hamper the feet. It is a time just suited for original thinkers, a remarkable number of whom in fact make their appearance, side by side or in close succession. Further, however little these are able to satisfy the demand for permanent results, they ever arouse our interest anew by the boldness and depth of their brilliant ideas, which alternate with quaint fancies or are pervaded by them; by the youthful courage with which they attacked great questions; and not least by the hard fate which rewarded their efforts with misinterpretation, persecution, and death at the stake. We must quickly pass over the broad threshold between modern philosophy and Scholastic philosophy, which is bounded by the year 1450, in which Nicolas of Cusa wrote his chief work, the Idiota, and 1644, when Descartes began the new era with his Principia Philosophiae; and can touch, in passing, only the most important factors. We shall begin our account of this transition period with Nicolas, and end it with the Englishmen, Bacon, Hobbes, and Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Between these we shall arrange the various figures of the Philosophical Renaissance (in the broad sense) in six groups: the Restorers of the Ancient Systems and their Opponents; the Italian Philosophers of Nature; the Political and Legal Philosophers; the Skeptics; the Mystics; the Founders of the Exact Investigation of Nature. In Italy the new spiritual birth shows an aesthetic, scientific, and humanistic tendency; in Germany it is pre-eminently religious emancipation—in the Reformation.
%1. Nicolas of Cusa.%